THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
City folks don’t get it.
I had an enjoyable lunch at the Chicago Hot Dog Stand yesterday. The place that used to be the Greyhound Bus station until Greyhound called it a day.
While I was savoring my Chicago dog another lover of fine dining recognized me from the picture that sometimes accompanies this column.
He had a question, he said. “What’s with the name?” he asked. “Why do you call this place Paradise?”
A fair question. That immediately brought up another. Why did Greyhound close its station?
Because the people who live here stay here, that’s why.
Because in many ways it is Paradise.
The first time I remember the “P” word coming up was in an e-mail from my friend Lucy in L.A.
She’d been complaining about how much she had to pay her attorney, and I’d written—truthfully—“What? You pay your lawyer money? I trade stories for services with almost everyone here. When T.R. the Lawyer wrote a letter for me, I paid by telling him how Arnold Schwarzenegger and I first met.”
“How wonderful!” Lucy wrote back. “You must be living in Paradise!”
My Daughter Who Lives in London said the same thing as I described the beauty and relative warmth of autumn to her over the phone. “It sounds like Paradise!”
Then there was the time last summer when I went to the feed store on a 100 plus degree day, with humidity so high I felt like I was drowning just walking to my truck.
The air conditioner in the store was broken, and, dripping with sweat, Sam the Feed Man was smacking it with every tool he could find. When he heard the door open he turned and smiled.
“Just another day in Paradise,” he said.
And even though he was uncomfortable and upset, he meant it. I could see that in Sam’s eyes.
A wonderful thing about the so-called hinterlands is that just about everyone who’s here is here because he or she wants to be.
It’s not for the jobs. Not when good jobs are so scarce in these parts. It’s not because only one member of a couple—the other member—wants to live here. Not when most husbands and wives have known each other since kindergarten and share every interest, belief, and value.
And it’s not because they can’t afford to leave. Not when heading out is as simple as throwing a few possessions into the back of a pickup and taking off.
Other big pluses for this particular slice of Paradise are mild weather in the eight months a year that aren’t summer. Beautiful scenery. A cost of living that is—literally—one-tenth of the cost of, say, L.A.
Folks here are as “You don’t say nothing about how I’m living and I won’t say nothing about how you are” as they can possibly be.
Their big concern is survival, which means they’re not wasting energy competing with neighbors to see who has the better car or bigger house but instead are busy squaring off against the environmental and economic factors that make earning a living so rough.
There’s no time to show off when having a good year means, “I didn’t lose the farm.”
Years ago, when I was writing and producing television shows like The Fall Guy and Mike Hammer and Walker Texas Ranger I was late for a meeting at MGM. My next job, and in my mind my whole future, depended on making a good impression, but I couldn’t find the office I was looking for.
Finally, I rushed up to a guard who looked like blues singer John Lee Hooker. “You know where Dean Hargrove is at?”
“I know where he be,” the guard answered. “But only he knows where he’s at.”
So, yes, I told the old boy at the hot dog stand that this column is called Live! From Paradise! because that’s the truth, plain and simple. My life here in the Ozarks often feels like I’m in Paradise.
But as I look back I recognize that I’ve always appreciated wherever I was. Nashville. Chicago. Los Angeles. Santa Fe.
And that’s the bigger truth. If we open our eyes wide we can see that happiness, satisfaction, success—they’re not about where we live. They’re about what’s inside us.
Without meaning to, the guard at MGM taught me the most valuable of lessons:
The most important thing in life isn’t where we be.
It’s where we’re at.